One week before speaking with this magazine, Leslie Capin, MD, lost her sister to cervical sarcoma. By the time her sister was diagnosed the disease had metastasized. Eleven days later she was gone.
“My sister’s passing proves that gynecologic cancers can be very silent, and that’s what makes them so scary,” says Capin.
This was not Capin’s first experience with gynecologic cancer. In fact it was her third. Tragically her aunt passed away from ovarian cancer after a late diagnosis a few years ago. Shortly after that, Capin’s very good friend Carol Goldstein, RN, PhD, was also diagnosed with the same cancer.
Capin has seen cancer from both sides of the diagnosis. As a dermatologist, she had treated the disease as it appears on the skin. As someone who has lost loved ones to cancer, she is very familiar with the pain and heartbreak that comes with a diagnosis.
“It is such a terrible disease that has touched me in so many ways. I knew I had to get involved somehow,” says Capin.
Capin’s involvement with the University of Colorado Cancer Center started when she moved to Colorado from Arizona to attend medical school at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“I fell in love with not only my spouse but also the mountains, the fishing, and everything about the state,” says Capin. “It didn’t take too much time to make it my home.”
Soon after she started her practice, Capin met Carol Goldstein. They have forged a close friendship over many years. In 2012 Goldstein was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“Even as a PhD nurse I overlooked symptoms of ovarian cancer,” Goldstein explains. “I was treated for abdominal discomfort for almost a year before an ultrasound confirmed I had cancer.”
As soon as she was diagnosed, Goldstein contacted her brother, a professor of medicine at Baylor University, who has many contacts in the community of cancer treatment.
“I asked where I should go for treatment,” says Goldstein. “He told me that the care I would get at the University of Colorado Cancer Center would be as good or better than anywhere else.”
Goldstein also contacted her sister, a professor of pediatrics at the Rochester School of Medicine, to ask the same question. Her sister also advised her to stay in Colorado.
“It was the best decision I ever made,” says Goldstein.
Now both Capin and Goldstein hope to support the next generation of gynecologic cancer scientists by funding the gynecologic oncology fellowship endowment at the CU Cancer Center.
“Carol is very involved in the gynecologic cancer program at CU and she introduced me to it,” says Capin. “I was immediately inspired by what is happening in the program — it is truly leading the way in gynecologic cancer care and the fellowship program ensures that more physicians will specialize in the field.”
Kian Behbakht, MD, is the director of the gynecologic oncology fellowship program.
“The fellowship program trains physicians to do what we do,” explains Behbakht. “We recognized about five years ago that there are few people that specialize in gynecologic oncology in the Rocky Mountain Region. Because of that we decided to ask if we could start the fellowship program here at the CU Cancer Center and were honored to be selected as a training location.”
The gynecologic oncology fellowship is a three year, highly involved program. Fellows receive the country’s best training and education alongside some of the most renowned oncologists in the world. Not only do they focus on the latest research in gynecological oncology but also learn to incorporate affiliated therapies such as cancer nutrition, genetic counseling, and complementary and alternative medicine. They are immersed in all aspects of gynecologic oncology to ensure that patients receive the highest level of care possible.
“If I am going to fund something it has to be something that I believe in,” says Capin. “I believe that if we can train more fellows there will be better education, better treatment, and more awareness about the silent killer that is gynecologic cancer. It is really a win-win for everyone involved.”